Colorado: full-day road trip

When I was growing up, my parents took Kevin and I on a real vacation pretty much every year. A week away in some place new, seeing National Parks or historical buildings or something. At the time it was kind of annoying (I had to give up doing a play every summer for this week away with my – ugh – FAMILY)…. But now I realize I was super lucky to be able to travel every year.

Andrew and I haven’t been on a trip *every* year, but we are on our way to hitting that mark.

This year, we visited my brother in Colorado. We haven’t visited him since 2006 when he lived in Monterey, CA and that was only for a couple days.

Now he’s going to school in Boulder, Colorado, but will only be there a little bit longer so we knew we had to go soon.

The original plan was to do a 2 week trip and include a road trip to visit all the fantastic National Parks in Utah on the way to Colorado, but we had to adjust our plans because Andrew’s time off is had to change.

But we still got a full week, including a drive from L.A. to Boulder, Colorado.

Andrew got home REALLY late the night before, but we still got up at 3:30am to pack the car and left a little after 5am. To drive ALL THE WAY to Colorado.

Just over 1000 miles, hopefully around 16 hours.

From our house through Las Vegas, through a tiny corner of Arizona, then turning north into Utah and East again to Colorado….

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I went back to sleep a little bit after we left so I could have the energy to take over the wheel when Andrew was ready to rest.

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We packed a TON of snacks and water bottles for the trip, I started reading Game of Thrones and slept on and off throughout the morning.

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Big thick books are the perfect thing for a road trip through the desert. The stretch of drive up until Colorado was kinda boring and VERY hot.

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Andrew took his shirt off to avoid getting a (worse) farmer’s tan.

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We got to Las Vegas right around rush hour (~9a) which was unfortunate timing.

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Over the whole day, we hit a high of 108 degrees! Bleck.

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I ended up taking Andrew’s shirt and hanging it in the window to protect myself from the sun. It was HOT and sunny and I could feel my shoulders getting burnt.

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We stopped not long after this for food in Mesquite, NV. And it was SO HOT. Oh my word so hot.

After lunch, after getting gas, after leaving Nevada, the scenery finally started to get interesting.

We hit the Virgin River and drove through this canyon …. Andrew was just BLOWN away! :)

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After this bit, we drove through the northwest corner of Arizona (where all the mountains reminded us of the Grand Canyon) and north into Utah.

There were some mountains and some desert, but after an hour or so we got here ….  mountains and rain and lovely green:

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We drove through quite a bit of rain. Which was SO nice after hitting 108 degrees. I think we got down to 70 degrees or so in this part of Utah.

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stopped again for gas around Salina, UT.

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Next big turn was to get onto the 15 East to start heading toward Colorado. We drove over some mountains, hit more intense rain (and actually hydro-planed a little) and were definitely slowed down a bit on our trip.

It was still gorgeous ….

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Once we got into Colorado, we stopped at Grand Junction for dinner …. and then from there it was just a few more hours until Boulder.

Only an hour or so of daylight for me to read still….

And this whole time Andrew is declining my offer to drive. Right about this 5/6ths point I think he decided he needed to do the whole drive himself. Because he’s crazy, obviously.

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Entering the bit of the southern Rockies we drove through to get to Boulder ….

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I wish we had gotten to this part of the trip earlier in the day so the photos were lighter.

The stretch of drive along the White River National Forest was just THE MOST gorgeous.

Andrew wants to go back just to do the drive. The freeway takes you along the river, but the east-bound and the west-bound parts of the freeway are built on different planes. We were driving all the way down in the canyon, RIGHT along the river, but the west-bound lane was on a platform high above us. Kind of amazing. I couldn’t get a good photo because it was dark so you should just go yourself.

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We drove through Vail (dark dark dark) and other mountain towns, through several tunnels, and up quite a bit of elevation over the full day.

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At a temperature low, I think we got as low as 50 degrees or so – almost a 60 degree range in a single day! Road trips are crazy :)

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Andrew started to get a little loopy near the end. He was SO TIRED, but insisted on driving the whole way himself.

We FINALLY got to Kevin’s house after midnight.

It took us around 18 hours, I think….. Partly because of the rain delay, we lost an hour in the time zones, and we ended up stopping quite a bit so Andrew could stretch his legs, wake up a little and take a break.

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(our first time seeing Kevin’s apartment)

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We went to bed basically immediately after getting there. Poor Andrew. He had maybe 3 hours of sleep the night before and then insisted on driving the WHOLE way. But now he can say that he drove 1030 miles in one day. His next attempt is a straight-through drive to Austin, TX (21 hours). Because he’s crazy.

But, honestly, Andrew says the drive to and from Colorado was his favorite part of the whole trip. He definitely wants to do it again, and he already told his parents they should do the drive too :)

Next: Our first day in Boulder.

What is the farthest you’ve ever driven in 1 day?

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Our favorite moments from Colorado

Andrew and I spent a week in Colorado with my brother last month ….

Here are just some quick notes before I forget them – some highlights of our week in Colorado:

  • The 16+ hour drive to and from – Andrew’s absolute favorite
  • touring the Stanley Hotel
  • touring the brewery – I just love guided tours
  • seeing elk so so close to the road
  • getting out and hiking in gorgeous weather
  • meeting Kevin’s girlfriend, roommates, and seeing where he’s been living for the last couple years
  • Kevin’s throne-like toilet
  • taking Andrew on his (first) trip to Rocky Mountain National Park!
  • driving in the rain and stopping for coffee

Check out our favorite moments from past vacations too – Scotland and Alaska.

More photos and stories of Colorado to come.

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Wisconsin: Sunday brunch

Sunday morning in Wisconsin …. We had the whole morning before we had to head to the airport to go home.

Liz’s maid-of-honor had gotten to the house around 2am and was so surprised to see how clean the kitchen was. Not done, of course, but so much cleaner than when she and Liz left it Saturday morning.

Liz and Dave were expected back home around 10a or so, so we started some of the food for all of the family and friends coming over for brunch.

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Carrying over the threshold :)

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Dave made a bunch of bloody Marys. So many that one of Liz’s brothers actually had to make another grocery store run for more supplies!

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gorgeous gorgeous day

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Andrew took one last walk out to the corn field.

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And we said good-bye to Liz. Love her.

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(she makes a fantastic Muppet face)

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We didn’t go STRAIGHT to the airport.

We actually drove to the other side of town to meet one of the vendors that Andrew uses for Ghostbot Records. This guy masters vinyl records out of his basement. And does a TON of them. No pictures there, but it was so interesting to hear Andrew and him talking “shop” :)

Off to the Madison airport around 3p.

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Returned the rental car, printed out our tickets, got lunch.

Quiznos. For reals.

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And then sat around for a REALLY long time because United Airlines is ridiculous. This poor airline attendant was literally the only United employee handling 3 different gates, MULTIPLE delayed flights and all the angry customers that goes along with it. I watched him run from one gate to another while STILL trying to answer passengers’ questions and get them sorted out.

Poor guy.

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Luckily our flight wasn’t delayed so much that we missed our connecting flight in Chicago, but that one was late too so we didn’t end up getting home until midnight or so. WI3  014

QUICK weekend trip to Wisconsin – but TOTALLY worth it.

What should I plan for the next time we go to Wisconsin?

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I normally don’t like weddings that have a bunch of extra time between the ceremony and reception – it just seems like a big waste to me. But in this case, because we didn’t really have any other opportunity to really SEE Wisconsin, I loved it.

The wedding itself ended at maybe 2:45p or 3, and the reception didn’t officially start until 6p.

Andrew had been to Madison once before, so he thought I would like to see the lakes in/around the city.

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First stop. Coffee….

We found this cute little drive through coffee place called Java Cat, got a few directions from the barrista and were on our way.

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Which, basically means we just drove around Lake Monona or Mendota (we never figured out which it was) until we found a nice place to park.

It was just this little residential area, with plenty of street parking and a tiny tiny little “park” where we could sit by the water.

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gorgeous, right?

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Can you imagine living there?

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But, you know…. EVENTUALLY we had our fill and made it over to the reception. It was in the basement of a restaurant… WI2  025

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Liz is an art teacher and she had all her students draw pictures of her and Dave as a bride and groom and used them as table centerpieces. ADORABLE.

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(the much-anticipated pint glasses)

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We got to the reception apparently after most other people so we ended up sitting way way way in the back. This wasn’t even our view of the grand entrance. This is me getting up and walking out of the back room where we were hidden away just so we could kind of see what was happening…

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YUM. Wedding cake and coffee.

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I love Liz

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We ended up leaving the reception around 9p or so – but since it was summer and so far north, we got back to Liz and Dave’s with still a little bit of sunlight.

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A little snack, a little game of fooseball in the basement …

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And then Andrew went to work doing dishes.

We’ve found that dishes are an easy chore that it is hard to do wrong, but helps out someone a lot :)

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We thought we would be alone in the house, but I was woken up at 1 or 2am by tipsy laughing and tumbling up the stairs. Turns out some of Liz’s friends were staying there as well.

We saw them the next morning – post on that tomorrow

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Wisconsin: Madison, rain and a wedding

Saturday – our only FULL day in Wisconsin.

I was woken up at 8a or so by a banging on the backdoor. I mean, I realized afterward that this is what it is, but essentially Liz and Dave had ordered personalized pint glasses for their wedding favors but they had not arrived on time. Dave spoke to the company Friday morning and more or less said if he doesn’t get them by Saturday morning he doesn’t want them and won’t accept the delivery.

So, lucky us, the UPS man showed up early Saturday morning with boxes and boxes of pint glasses.

Liz had spent the night at her maid-of-honor’s house Friday night, and Dave took the glasses (and other things) to their reception location Saturday morning, so Andrew and I woke up to an empty house Saturday morning. Kinda strange, but Liz and Dave are so easy it wasn’t too weird.

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Liz MUST have come by earlier in the morning, because their coffee and supplies were all set out nicely for us. And Dave doesn’t drink coffee so he told us he wouldn’t have thought of it at all.

Sophie and Daniel came in – coffee and bathroom and food.

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After having so many people over the night before, the kitchen looked like this:

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So Andrew and I did a little bit of cleaning before we had to get ready to go.

Saturday was lovely and overcast… high 60s/low 70s. Not rainy (yet).

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The ceremony was at 2p, so we got all fancied up and left to go visit Madison-proper and left around 12:30p to find lunch …

(sidenote: Photo below – not pregnant, just arching my back)

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We drove to Madison, where Dave told us there were a bunch of restaurants around the capitol building. Easy. We found cheap-ish parking (cheap for our Los Angeles standards) and walked a couple blocks to the capitol square in our wedding attire.

Dave had recommended The Great Dane, but of course that was a sit-down restaurant and we didn’t even have enough time to account for the wait it would take before we got a table, so we kept going.

And what did we end up getting for lunch? Quizno’s. Just like the day before. Like I mentioned, it’s nice to have a ‘fast food’ option that at least gets us real vegetables.

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We took our sandwich/wrap across the street to sit on a bench right near the capitol building to eat.

We didn’t have a ton of time to walk around, take pictures, or really experience the area, but it was a nice place for lunch.

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Until it started pouring and neither of us had jackets, let alone umbrellas.

This now makes the 3rd city we’ve gotten caught in the rain while traveling (previously Rome and Edinburgh).

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Luckily the rain lightened just a tiny bit to allow us to power-walk back the the car. But Andrew’s (wedding) shirt was soaked all the way through, so he just took it off and hung it (wet) on the back of his seat. Hoping it would dry by the time we got to the wedding.

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Almost.

Andrew put his (now damp) shirt back on in the church parking lot…

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(church bathroom selfie)

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And then our awesome friend Liz got married!!!!

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She’s the best!

And we really like Dave :)

And we’re so so grateful we were able to come out for her big day!

But, then we had a couple hours before the reception to kill some time … that post tomorrow.

Have you ever gotten caught in the rain while traveling?

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So now you know we went to Wisconsin for the weekend. For this L.A. girl, it was an awful lot of farmland. Everywhere.

And by everywhere, I mean EVERYWHERE.

Dave and Liz’s house was the next-to-last one at the end of a street. At the very end of the street was this … fence? Guard rail? Slight obstacle? And then just fields. A field of wildflowers first ….

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Andrew, Daniel, Sophi and I took a little suburban hike through this neighboring field. It was a gorgeous gorgeous day. I was wearing the absolute WRONG shoes for walking around in dirt and rocks, but I lived through it.

Looking back toward the houses – we stayed in that yellow one. You can just see the garage behind the red house.

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Daniel and Sophie had explored a little bit already, and were taking us to the corn field just past the edge of the wildflower field.

Andrew waited for me – since I was having trouble finding the non-existent path in my not-for-walking shoes.

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And then we got to the corn field and Daniel and Sophie were nowhere to be found? Daniel’s beer was on the side of the field, but they were missing?

I don’t remember how long they let us wonder, but suddenly D&S just popped up out of the middle of the field!

There’s a saying – knee-high by the Fourth of July? This corn was almost waist high the week before the 4th.

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It was just lovely….

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By the time we got back to the house, it was full of people. Family and friends and wedding party and nieces and nephews and all.

Liz is from a big Catholic family – I could barely keep half of her siblings straight let alone everyone else.

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We went out to eat on the lawn – SO gorgeous out there!

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Andrew discovered this family recipe of Liz’s – fruit dip (cream cheese, marshmallow creme and vanilla) …. but he used it for cookies. And had about a million.

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Later in the evening, once most of the guests had left, Sophie taught us how to play Yahtzee!

It’s such an iconic American family game, isn’t it? I can’t believe we hadn’t played it before.

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Kind of a LONG day, but so nice to see both Liz and Daniel!

Next: WEDDING! and getting caught in the rain

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Wisconsin: A morning of travel

Since I’ve been blogging here so irregularly, I forget what I have told you and what I have not.

So let’s start WAY at the beginning.

Our friend Liz got engaged late last year, and Andrew was so excited to go to the wedding! He and Liz worked together in Phoenix and she has since moved (back) to Wisconsin. She came out to visit us last summer, but other than that we never get to see her. So we made plans to travel to Wisconsin the last weekend in June….

…. and then we decided that I would quit my job, so I deliberately did NOT request that Friday off work so I would be sure to have quit by then (!!). So my last day at the day job was June 21, and the following Friday we were up at 3am to leave the house at 4am to get to LAX in time for our 6am flight.

I was easing into my new schedule, but it wasn’t terrible to get up that early. I probably fell asleep at 9p the night before. Andrew, on the other hand…. He apparently doesn’t need sleep. Or doesn’t do time well. He got home just a couple hours before he had to get up. Maniac.

We don’t fly out of LAX all that often, so we’ll call it an adventure. We parked at The Spot and took a shuttle and that was far more manageable than having to worry about someone picking up/dropping us off. LAX is kind of the worst.

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We had a few hours to Denver airport, and then another hour or so to Madison.

I started this book … which led me to start making crazy notes for this site that was just an idea then. (Now it’s barely more than an idea, but at least it exists).

Great book. Highly recommended.

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Andrew slept. The whole way.

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We got to Denver …. 10a or so? Hard to say with the time changes, but definitely in time for lunch for us. Since we had been up since 3a.

Here’s the problem with lunch: I like real food. And it’s hard to find real food, fast, at an airport. Especially since I’m trying to eat gluten-free-ish.

BUT! Miracle of miracles! Quizno’s has wraps. Basically salad in a tortilla. And they’re not half bad. I was so pleasantly surprised (and Andrew got to try some fancy hot sandwich. Seriously so pleased to have found something that genuinely resembled food I would make for myself at home.

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We arrived in Madison, Wisconsin at about 1p or so. Wisconsin time. Picked up our rental car ….

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…. and it was raining.

Not exactly the way you want to start a wedding weekend, but the weather was certainly gorgeous. Only partially cloudy sky with a bit of sprinkles? LOVE.

And the scenery? Even barely leaving the airport was gorgeous and green all around (compare that to leaving LAX? Yea.).

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Our friend Liz offered us the guest room in her fiancee’s house (her new home)…. SO generous. Especially since we hadn’t yet met Dave.

His house is in a suburb of Madison, in a neighborhood 10-years-old or so. With a lovely big field at the end of his street (which I assume will one day be more houses).

The view from our room …

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And then we went to work.

Liz and Dave were hosting their rehearsal dinner at their house that night and still had a long long list of things to do.

So we dug in. You know, to pay for our room and board for the weekend.

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Andrew’s brother Daniel and his girlfriend Sophie live in Chicago, only about 3 hours away, so they came up for a part of the weekend to see us.

They slept in Daniel’s truck parked outside Liz and Dave’s house.

So fun to see them and at least know *someone* that weekend since we literally knew no one but Liz.

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Liz left about 4p to go to the rehearsal, and we stayed at the house to finish prepping some food ….

… and checking out the rest of the house.

The living room was full of wedding stuff – centerpieces and favors and all.

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Dave and Liz’s house is the one on the left. The front faces this community front yard, the back/garage face a small road.

It’s a NICE neighborhood :)

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We had time for a little more exploring before everyone came for dinner.

That post is tomorrow.

Have you ever been to Wisconsin?

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Seen in L.A. (V)

Seen in L.A. (intro)

  • sparkly silver toddler-sized converse shoes. first the left shoe … then the right shoe about ? a block later
  • 4 men’s shirts hanging in dry-cleaning bags from a tree branch
  • young mom (or babysitter) stopping to steal fruit from a tree in the front yard of one of the houses on Bundy
  • 2 splotches of vomit in the middle of the sidewalk – in front of a grocery store
  • 2 houses being completely rebuilt from the ground up – 1 on either side of a house being left alone.
  • Fruit street-food cart. Complete with lots of ice to keep it all cool

Check out other Seen in L.A. editions here

Now that I’ve been doing this walk from my car to the work building for 5 years, I notice far fewer oddities. It all seems normal, now.

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Annenberg Beach House

A few weeks ago, I assisted Maggie on a photo shoot at the Annenberg Beach House.

I read about the Annenberg Beach House YEARS ago in a little blurb in Vanity Fair ….and sine then I’ve been just waiting for a reason to go.

From their website:

The Annenberg Community Beach House at Santa Monica State Beach is a public facility located on 5 acres of oceanfront property. The Beach House story is one of evolution from private to public, starting with the development of the property at 415 Pacific Coast Highway as an opulent private estate in the 1920s.

Go read the full history of it ….. The property started out as Marion Davies’s private home. Can you IMAGINE living right on the beach like that? I want to read all kinds of mid-century Hollywood histories!

Today, the Annenberg Beach House is gorgeous and relaxing … I believe you need to make an appointment to swim in the pool, but otherwise its free to park, free to visit, free to hang out on the long boardwalk in front of it.

Check out some photos from our afternoon ..

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California Missions: Santa Barbara

At the end of September, Andrew and I took a VERY SHORT day trip to Santa Barbara.

But I made sure to fit in a trip to the Santa Barbara Mission.

I hadn’t been there since 4th grade (which I remember because I was doing a school project about it). I want to eventually visit ALL the California missions with Andrew. So far we’ve got this one and San Luis Obispo (almost 3 years ago).

We got to the mission just after a wedding ended – which is why there was a big crowd in front of the chapel.

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From Wikipedia:

Mission Santa Barbara, also known as Santa Barbara Mission, is a Spanish mission founded by the Franciscan order near present-day Santa Barbara, California. It was founded December 4, 1786, the feast day of Saint Barbara, as the tenth mission for the religious conversion of the indigenous local ChumashBarbareño tribe of Native American people.

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We paid our $5 each to walk through the mission.

Touted as a “tour”, it was really just a short walk around the edge of the courtyard, through the cemetery, through the chapel and then through the small museum. All marked by zombie-looking friar sign posts.

But really, helping maintain something historic like the mission is exactly what I like to spend my money on, so who cares.

I loved all these old photos of the Franciscans who have worked out of the mission over the last several centuries.

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the cemetery …

I am tentatively thinking about doing a small scrapbook of all the cemeteries we visit. It’s one of Andrew’s favorite things.

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the chapel …

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Such an interesting part of California history …. wonder which one we’ll visit next …

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Big Bear weekend away (part 3)

Sunday morning of our weekend away in Big Bear …. We both woke up at 730a or 8a or so. I’m sure part of that had to do with going to bed early, but we’re both morning people, for sure. Andrew went and got a little (sad, weak) coffee from the lobby, we both showered and got ready for our day and then decided to venture out for breakfast before deciding what else to do.

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Andrew got on his phone again and Yelp’d breakfast nearby. Even though there were closer places to eat, we decided to head over to the North Shore (on the other side of the lake) and eat at the North Shore Café. We happened to get there right at at the exact right moment and were able to sit down immediately. Only because we were a party of 2, of course. The only table available was a table for 2 on the front porch (in the sun).

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The North Shore Café is basically a house – tables inside (in the ‘living room’ and ‘dining room’ and tables outside (on the ‘front porch’ and ‘front yard’). That particular Sunday morning there was 1 waitress for the inside and one for the outside. And they both seemed a little frazzled. The indoor-waitress took our drink order, because the outdoor-waitress was too busy. She ended up bringing us only half a cup of coffee each because they were brewing more (and then neither of them ever got around to bringing us more). We also got soup spoons instead of regular spoons because they were in the middle of doing dishes.

So, yea. Busy.

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Breakfast is my favorite – and breakfast with Andrew is even better. And then add in the fact that Andrew got breakfast tacos which is his favorite and (aside from the lack of coffee) it was a pretty perfect morning.

After breakfast we just drove around. Nothing special, no idea where we were going. But the views and the scenery and even just the sides-of-the-road around Big Bear Lake are gorgeous.

Andrew always drives whenever we go anywhere.  I don’t like to drive and he LOVES it, so it works out well. We’re a good team.

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I handled the music and my camera, while he drove back around to the south side of the lake. Once we got over there, he decided to keep driving farther east, past the edge of the lake … just to see what to see. From my maps app on my phone, it looked like just residential to me, but he wanted to see.

Eventually he turned right (south) on some street or other and we started to climb a hill in a residential area. We passed a city sign indicating we were entering ‘Sugarloaf’ and kept going. Stop sign and then what looked like more residential.

Except, after we passed the Stop sign Andrew got pulled over. Allegedly he didn’t stop at the Stop sign … but we both know he did the classic ‘California roll’ and came to an almost-complete stop before (safely) driving through the intersection. Officer Sugarloaf was nice about it though … didn’t give us a hard time. Didn’t seem to mind all that much that our insurance and registration didn’t have our current address on it (and was also expired). Politely explained what was up ahead when Andrew asked him.

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Clearly this guy had nothing better to do at 10:30a on a Sunday morning than lay in wait for drivers at this completely residential Stop sign.

Oh well. It could have been worse.

We more or less decided to just go back to the room after that, though.

And relax.

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Relax so thoroughly that we both took some pretty substantial naps.

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We also read (in the room and on the beach) …. And somehow put in 4 or 5 hours … But we really didn’t do anything productive or touristy or what I usually think of as vacation-y. We just relaxed.

Because of all this relaxing we skipped lunch… So around 4:45 or so we headed out for an early dinner. Yep, Sunday night dinner at 5p. Like a couple of old people.

We had already planned on dinner at Captains Anchorage, the one place in town that Andrew could find that claimed to be haunted.

I love me some hauntedness.

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We walked in and were seated right away – next to some old people on either side, served by an old person, and we were easily the youngest ones in the restaurant by 10 years or more. Captains Anchorage is priced a little bit fancier than we usually do, but the entrees ALL include soup and a trip to the salad bar. Deal city. I got a steak, Andrew got (delicious) Orange Ruffi with a salsa-like sauce on top.

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And it was still plenty light out when we got done with dinner….

Too late in the day to do anything like hiking, of course, but plenty of daylight still to relax and read. Have I mentioned yet that we spent most of the weekend relaxing and reading?

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Around 8p or so I got a sugar craving, so we drove over to The Village to get some ice cream and people-watch. Being Sunday night, of course, there weren’t a whole lot of people around, but that almost made it nicer.

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By the time we got back to the hotel it was dark- though not too late. We half-heartedly searched out a movie on TV (weird feeling, actually looking for something on a channel), but ended up just reading for a bit and falling asleep early. EARLY. Like 930p or so.  Super early considering on work nights I don’t even get home til midnight.

Monday morning we woke up around 8a or so … checked out, got some coffee, and headed back home.

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I (unfortunately) had to be at work later that day.

Thus ends the whole of our “vacation” for 2012. Bummer.

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Big Bear weekend away (part 2)

So after lunch we drove around the lake some more … It’s not a very big lake at all, so it was easy to take a short leisurely drive around, checking out the town, checking out the lake, checking out the naturey-activities.

We had identified one of the shorter, nearer trails and went on a short hike before we went back to check in at the hotel.

For whatever reason, the hike we chose was labeled an “Interpretive Hike” …. Although, the path was pretty clear and not at all interpretive so I don’t know what that was about.

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It was a mile and a half and set up in a loop. We started on one side of the parking lot, hiking up hill to behind where the parking lot was, and then downhill the other side to end up back on the other side of the parking lot. Unfortunately, the trail guide with all the descriptions that matched the markers was out of stock. Bummer. I seriously love LEARNING about where I am – whether that’s history or science or whatever. One of the reasons I’ve realized I love guided tours. I would have totally taken a guided hike.

Oh well.

Not 100 yards into the hike, I realized I didn’t have any hair ties on me. I usually keep at least 1 on my wrist, but had forgotten to put it on that morning. And, bizarrely, I didn’t have any in my purse OR in our travel-toiletry bag either! Grrrr …. So I spent most of the hike with one hand holding my camera and the other hand holding my hair up. I sweat a lot (probably because I get so overheated with my fair skin) and I’m sure I looked lovely. In fact, between the sweat and holding my hair in a (damp) twisted bun for so long, once I took it down it looked like a wild mane. Bigger than my hair ever is!

We saw a million lizards on our hike. Andrew loves lizards. It’s the little boy in him, I guess. He kept a running count and instagram’d photos of at least half of them! We also saw at least 1 chipmunk, and 3 dogs (but those were attached to their owners).

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 It was a nice hike – not too long but still physically exerting.

And by the end we were ready to go check into our hotel and wash our faces.

The hotel looked pretty adorable from the street. Lots of trees and shading and not too crowded on the property. But when we checked in and they gave us the map of the property and showed us where we’d be staying we got really excited!

Big Bear Frontier Hotel is ON Big Bear Blvd (the main street lining the south of the lake). The whole of the property, however, actually heads back toward the lake with MORE small cabins and a hotel building on the actual lake shore.

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Our tiny little cabin was I think one of the smallest they had. Just a little studio cabin (tiny kitchen, tiny bathroom, not much more room than what the bed took up), with no deck. But the hotel is pet-friendly, and many of the other private cabins near us had a little fenced in deck to sit on, complete with a small gate to close off the deck if you want to let your dog off his leash while in your cabin.

Our front door was about a block away from the hotel’s private beach, and just across a driveway from a large grassy area with picnic tables, grills and a horseshoe game. Of course, when we got there there was a large LOUD picnic going on, not 40 feet from our windows.

But we were actually both tired enough to fall asleep in spite of the yelling.

Once we checked into the hotel, we kind of jointly decided to just spend the rest of the afternoon napping and reading and hanging out on the beach. We had water bottles, and we’d leave again for dinner, but just spent the time together that afternoon.

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Andrew had started reading Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin – the first book in his fantasy series A Song of Ice and Fire. I brought along a history book I had borrowed from my dad – A Life Wild and Perilous: Mountain Men and the Paths to the Pacific by Robert M. Utley. Something about reading about beaver trapping and exploring the Rockies just seemed right for this trip to Big Bear. Plus, part of the chapters I read on Sunday included Jedediah Smith stumbling upon the San Bernardino Mountains …. Exactly where we were almost 200 years later.

I love history.

For dinner we decided to just walk the few blocks into ‘The Village’ … or rather, near The Village. Kam recommended we eat at Nottingham – the restaurant right next to The Robinhood Resort where she stayed last time she was there. We got there well before sunset and were seated out on the patio.

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Andrew, miracle of miracles, did NOT get tacos. He did get fish, though – his other theme for the weekend. Mango Ahi salad and I got stuffed salmon, with veggies and mashed potatoes. YUM. Andrew also ordered a big beer – and when he drinks he gets chatty. That dinner date was so much fun just because Andrew was so chatty!

We talked about my quitting my job, and his plans for his freelance and what is going on with his family and what I remembered about the last time I had come to Big Bear. I love being married to my best friend, for sure.

Coffee and mud pie for dessert…. And then a lovely walk home in the dusk.

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Once we got back to the hotel it was basically dark and quiet …. But not yet too late. So we walked down to the beach, sat in one of the lounge chairs the hotel had supplied there and talked some more. Bats swooping overhead, nearby houses all lit up and reflected in the lake. It really is a gorgeous place.

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According to my iPhone app, thunderstorms were in the forecast for Sunday, so we didn’t plan on doing anything special. In fact, I was almost hoping it WOULD thunder and rain because A) I love storms and B ) That way we wouldn’t have to make any decisions about where to hike or whether or not to spend money horseback riding.

Saturday night we went to bed early-ish with no plans to get up at any specific time on Sunday. The best kind of vacation.

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Big Bear weekend away (part 1)

Andrew had a month off work this summer – that corresponds exactly with the month that I’m not allowed to take time off from my job. So there goes any vacation plans we might have had.

Instead, I resolved that we would do a little weekend getaway – we live in Southern California, after all. There are endless options for weekend vacations.

By the time Andrew knew for sure which weekend would work for him, it was already a couple weeks before. I had originally hoped we could have rented a beach-town condo or similar on the central coast and had Christian and Avalon come meet us. But of course, by the time I started looking everything was either WAY out of our price range or booked up.

Sad. So what are some other non-beach options? We eventually narrowed it down to Palm Springs and Big Bear. Since we had already been to Palm Springs (a couple years ago) and since it was bound to be 140 degrees or something equally ridiculous, we decided on Big Bear.

Andrew hadn’t ever been, and I hadn’t been since 1998 or so – with the high school group with my church. I should dig out those photos!

I had solicited ideas on Twitter and Facebook and several people recommended Big Bear, and one even provided a specific hotel recommendation. My friend Kam has been to Big Bear several times and gave me some more ideas….. But after a little bit of research, I was able to book a little studio private cabin basically right on the lake for less than a hotel room elsewhere.

Deal city!

So I made sure Andrew KNEW without a doubt which days I had booked us rooms for (he’s not great with dates), and then started daydreaming about how we would spend our weekend. I didn’t do a whole lot of research. It’s not as if Big Bear was high on my list of places to visit because of such and such. I just figured we’d hike or maybe do something a little more involved like kayaking or so. But no definite plans.

Which honestly was kind of nice. All of our past vacations I have WAY planned to the hour. And loved all of them (Italy, Scotland, etc). But this weekend-away was not necessarily going to be like that. It was just a weekend to be together away from home.

The night before we left, I was at work and Andrew did a little bit of research into any places around town that might be haunted. Because that is ALWAYS a fun touristy thing to do. He also looked at some other options – kayaking, horseback riding, fishing.

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We left home Saturday morning around 8a or so. As per our tradition, we treated ourselves to Starbucks on the way out of town. Big Bear is about 2.5 hours away, and we spent the morning listening to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast.

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I had no idea that Big Bear was ON the mountain range. We got into the San Bernardino National Forest and started climbing the windy switch-back road up the mountain. Slowly, of course, and stopped once to take in the view from the shoulder. But just kept climbing and climbing. I guess I assumed Big Bear was in a valley on the other side of the mountain, but no. It was created actually as a reservoir with a dam at one end. So we climbed the mountain, rounded the corner and there it was.

From Wikipedia:

Big Bear Lake is a reservoir in the San Bernardino Mountains, in San Bernardino County, California, United States. At a surface elevation of 6,750 ft (2,060 m), it has an east-west length of approximately 7 miles (11.2 km) and is approximately 2.5 miles (4 km) at its widest measurement, though the lake’s width mostly averages a little more than 1 mile (1.6 km). These approximations are based on the lake having an optimum retainable water level. At dam’s end Big Bear measures its deepest water at 72 feet (22 m). It is a completely snow-fed lake, having no other means of tributary or mechanical replenishment.

We got to Big Bear around 11:30a or so, which was too early to check into the hotel, so we ‘Yelp’d’ some restaurants nearby.

When we got into town, we drove around the lake a little bit, just to see what there was to see and get our bearings in the area. We stopped by Vons to get some water bottles – since we both pretty much only drink water and especially if we were going to go on a hike.

I noticed several places to pull off and park, but they all required an “Adventure Pass”. We came across the Big Bear Discovery Center where we were able to pick up a couple maps of the area and an Adventure Pass for parking. We bought the Annual Pass, so now we need to go visit other National Parks so our $35 doesn’t go to waste!

I don’t know what it is about being in the outdoors or the mountains like that, but I was totally craving a burger. A nice, cheesy, home-style burger. We found a parking spot near Teddy Bear Restaurant and went there for lunch.

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Fun little sidenote: We were seated out on the patio for lunch, and the family at the table next to ours was debating politics and the validity of the Electoral College. And by “family” I mean parents and a 14-ish year old and an 11-ish year old. I LOVE that!

I got my burger – exactly what I wanted – and Andrew ordered tacos. He always orders tacos. If there are tacos on the menu he has to have them. I don’t really get it, but if he wants to have tacos I’m not going to stop him.

Turns out he should not have gotten the tacos. No cilantro, I think the meat was mixed with scrambled egg. Not really his thing at all.

But now I feel like I have to make a mini scrapbook about all the places Andrew has eaten tacos.

Next up: hiking and our hotel!

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Alaska: on film

So I finally (finally) got all my rolls of film developed – including several from our trip to Alaska more than a year ago!

This first chunk is from my Holga – a medium format ‘toy camera’. I’m still learning how to use it well, but I love the rich colors that showed up in these images….

This second part is from my Diana Mini – another ‘toy camera’ but one that takes 35 mm film. This camera has 2 settings – and the whole time I used the split (2 images per frame). Again, I am just learning how to use this camera, but so fun!

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Clearly I need to work on holding my hands steady. So many of these are blurry!

Also, I’m so used to shooting in ‘manual’ mode on my digital and controlling every aspect of the camera settings. With both of these I just have ‘sunny’ or ‘cloudy’ and a couple other settings. So I guess it’s just through trial and error that I can figure out what kind of lighting needs which setting.

We’ll see.

Both cameras are already loaded with another roll of film for more practicing!

Be sure to click through to the Alaska 2011 travel archive to see the digital photos and read the stories from our trip

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Andrew and Liz’s Malibu hike

The week that Liz was in town, Andrew actually had several days off!

That Monday the 2 of them decided to go hiking – they went to Malibu so Liz could visit the beach as well.

And Andrew, bless his heart, thought to bring me back the trail map so I could include it in my Project Life spread for that week. That guy must love me.

They hiked part of the Ocean View Trail (near the bottom of this image below)…. and at one point ran down a hill.

Then for the rest of the week, both Liz and Andrew ACHED! Especially their shins, I think, from running full speed down a hill!

Andrew loves hiking (and I do not), so I think it was nice for him to have a new hiking partner for a day!

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